There are many different types of workplaces within B.C.’s performing arts and motion picture industries. Because of this diversity of work, and the environments in which the work is done, it is critical to conduct regular health and safety inspections to help prevent workplace incidents.
Kim Stubbs, OHS Consultant, WorkSafeBC
Performing arts may include theatre, dance, music, or circus productions, performed in a wide variety of settings — including arenas, stadiums, clubs, amphitheatres, or parks. Each of these types of settings poses specific health and safety hazards. While some of these challenges are common to all performing arts, others are unique and depend on the scope and complexity of performances – where they are occurring, and who is coordinating them.
The motion picture industry includes preproduction (location scouting, casting, and set construction), production (when the camera rolls), and post production (such as strike, editing, computer-produced graphics, animation, and special effects). Workers may be involved in design, set construction, props, special effects, costumes, electrical, rigging, makeup, or other departments of a production or event. All these activities present a wide diversity of health and safety hazards. Health and safety involves managers, supervisors and workers, and can even extend to members of the public and the production environment.
Identifying potential and actual workplace hazards
All employers in B.C. are required to conduct workplace inspections. The goal of these inspections is to identify and record potential and actual hazards associated with locations, buildings, equipment, environment, processes, and practices, in order to prevent workplace incidents. Unsafe acts or conditions should be corrected as soon as possible.
Beyond workplace inspections, employers need to evaluate work processes and practices. Examples of evaluations would be determining and documenting the safe method for dying cloth for a costume, hanging lights from a balcony, performing stunts, or rehearsing a dance routine. A number of different approaches can be used to perform these evaluations, including a risk assessment or job hazard analysis.
Safety inspections, evaluation of work processes, and reporting unsafe acts or conditions are all critical components of hazard identification and control. All are valuable processes for creating and maintaining a safe work environment.
When to do a workplace inspection
Recognizing hazards within your performing arts or motion picture activities and correcting them is critical to a robust safety system. This includes conducting regular informal safety checks, as well as formal scheduled workplace inspections that document hazards, identify corrective actions, and establish who is responsible for correcting unsafe acts or conditions. The frequency of workplace inspections depends on the operations involved, the magnitude of the hazards present, changes in equipment or work processes, and any previous workplace incidents.
Conduct inspections frequently to take account of changing conditions. Workplaces are often temporary — and are in some cases only set up for a few hours.
Who does the workplace inspection?
It’s important that inspections are done by personnel who have experience with the work procedures involved, understand safe work practices, and are able to identify actual and potential hazards.
Tips for conducting a workplace health and safety inspection include the following:
Review worker tasks and requirements. Check in with workers and ask them about health or safety concerns they may have.
- Use a checklist to make sure your inspection is thorough.
- Refer to previous inspection records to make sure reported hazards have been corrected.
- Look at all workplace elements – the people, the environment, the equipment, and the work processes.
- Inspect all work areas, including areas where work is not done regularly such as parking lots, break rooms, washrooms, and storage areas.
- Perform focused inspections on specialized systems such as the counterweight rigging system or tension grid based on the frequency of use. Follow manufacturer guidelines for inspecting these systems.
- Maintain copies of all inspection records. This is required to show due diligence.
It’s important to ensure you have implemented a system that works for your workplace to help you review findings and follow up on any deficiencies. Taking the time now to set up your inspection processes will help you identify hazards and prevent unsafe working conditions from developing.
For more information on workplace inspections, see pages 31 to 34 of the new Health and Safety for Motion Picture and Television Production in B.C. guide, available on worksafebc.com. Although this guide focuses on the motion picture industry, you can apply many of the same principles to performing arts settings.
This article was written for our quarterly newsletter, Safety Scene. You can find a link to the full edition below.